tv Dateline NBC NBC January 7, 2012 10:00pm-11:00pm PST
this is a drainage on top of a tragedy now. >> it happened so quickly, their parents in the backyard spa, their mom in trouble. >> my dad just panicked. >> a sudden slip? a fatal fall? >> you're losing your mother, you're watching her go right in front of you. >> someone else was watching her, too, a curious neighbor just moments before witnessed something astonishing. >> it was scary. the look on his face was almost undescribable. >> what had she seen? was this drowning really an accident? >> she's got a huge gash on her head. something like that is not consistent with just falling down. >> a husband and father is
suddenly under suspicion. >> he's crying and we're crying. he said, they think i hurt mom. >> three daughters stand by their dad, and one prosecutor stands firm. >> he's holding his wife of almost three decades under the water. my job is to get justice for christy hall. >> was it murder? "someone was watching." thanks for joining us. i'm lester holt. it's a story that calls to mind the master of suspense, a plot straight out of an alfred hitchcock film. a young woman peers into her neighbor's yard and sees something for a few seconds, a man, a woman and eye moment that's unsettling. was it an accident, maybe a crime, maybe a murder? what she saw and what she did would set in motion a chain of events that would divide a family and a jury. here's keith morrison.
we know the truth, and we know everything that happened. >> how do we know what we know? >> emotionally unsatisfying not to have that answer. >> reporter: though it is, even if we've seen something. or if we think we have. and thus the question at the heart of the whole puzzle. is this woman right? >> i know what i saw, and i know the conclusion of my story. >> reporter: of course she does. of course she does. so why does this other woman think this? >> she didn't know for sure what she saw. >> reporter: the question, we say, on which all the rest will turn. why don't we begin here, cal la mesa, california, riverside county. historic missions, sprawling suburbs creeping out to the rim of mountains around the eastern flank of los angeles. here is where chris and christy hall had come to live out their golden years, though they were
far from old when it happened. just experienced with life and each other. >> as far back as i can remember, it's always been chris and christy. they were never thought of as separate. they were a unit. >> reporter: these are their three daughters, courtney the eld eflt is a teacher, breanna a personal trainer, and ashton, the youngest, here just returned from playing professional volleyball in europe. and all of them, of course, have heard scores of times the story of how their parents met. it was 1978. christy had gone to see a relative at the air force base in nearby san bernardino. and quite by chance while she was there encountered a security guard who, to her at least, looked just like elvis. it was blair christopher hall, chris to his friends. >> apparently she was a little flirty at the gate. >> reporter: in short order, chris and christy got married. she was 17, he 20.
and, as the girls grew up, they said they never doubted for a single moment the powerful bond of love, their parents with them and with each other. >> they were probably closer with our parents than most children. they're the parents i hope to one day be. my dad is a little more kick-back and relaxed, quiet. but they were a perfect balance i think. >> reporter: for years chris hall was a police officer in san bernardino until he was shot in the line of duty. then he went off to become police chief in two small towns in idaho. then in 2005, anticipating an empty nest and eventual retirement, the halls brought this place back in cala mesa, which they loved for its backyard pool and spa. and life in the spring of 2007 seemed to have hit a sweet spot as ashton and breanna remember their mother telling them. >> we happened to be laying on the bed with her.
she just started talking. she's like, i am just -- i'm so happy that i have you girls and dad. >> it's kind of one of those conversations that you don't have every day. >> reporter: still, there was work to be done. it was not a new house, could use some remodeling. particularly the bathroom. courtney was still living with her parents as the work began. >> they were going to be doing the tile work and stuff so we wouldn't have a shower for that day. >> reporter: so shower out of commission they decided to wake up early, put on their bathing suits and rinse off in the outdoor spa before the contractor arrived at 6:45 a.m. it was june 7, 2007. chris got up first, turned on the spa to warm it up and then called breanna at her college dorm in san diego. >> here's your wake-up call, babe. get out and go on that run. >> reporter: back at the house, courtney dozed through her first wake-up while chris and christy made their way outside to the
spa. just after 6:30, chris looked into courtney again, second call, headed back to the spa. life's last normal moments. 6:37 a.m. >> i got up out of bed and i was putting on my robe and i just heard this panicked -- panicked scream, my dad yelling for me. i ran to the back porch and i saw him just trying to pull out my mom out of the spa. >> emergency. >> reporter: it was she who dialed 911 as she and her father struggled to lift her mother out of the spa. >> it was the first moments of the worst day of our lives. >> reporter: is it possible for people to understand what it's like to be in that situation. >> i don't think so. to see both your parents in the worst time that you've ever seen them. obviously my mom unconscious and my dad just panicked and for the first time in my life seeing him
just -- that way not knowing what to do. >> because he was a cop. he was used to dealing with those kinds of things. >> he was a cop used to keeling with those kinds of things that were not his wife. >> reporter: so courtney took charge. after calling 911 she started cpr. eric norwood was the first to respond. >> he just started, help my wife, oh, my god, help my wife. >> reporter: chris hall was kneeling at his wife's side, more in the way than anything, and so hysterical it was hard for the emts to help. >> it took us a little bit to get him out of the way. >> he didn't want to leave her. he was yelling her name. >> reporter: the paramedics worked on christy for more than 20 minutes. no vital signs. no none. >> no words to describe just the fear and the anxiety. >> reporter: you're losing your mother, and you're watching her go right in front of you. >> right. we tried to save her together,
and we just couldn't. >> reporter: the ambulance rushed her off to the hospital where she was declared dead. she had drowned in the family spa. a private family tragedy. except maybe not so private after all. someone was watching. coming up -- >> it was a horrible scream. >> a witness. but to what? what exactly did she see? >> i don't know, you know. i can't explain what she's saying she saw. >> when "datelin ♪ first you take the jumbo jack, then you add two tacos. ♪
♪ waddya get? jumbaco! ♪ jumbaco! ♪ jumbaco! jumbaco! jumba-jum- jack, i don't know why you keep pushing the jumbaco. research shows normal people like the jumbo deal. your classic jumbo jack made with 100% beef, two tacos, fries and a drink for just $4.29. it's all their favorites in one meal. they killed my jumbaco idea? i tried.
on the morning of june 7, 20087, breanna hall was on the road from san diego, driving home from college to what she didn't know except her elder sister courtney had called and it sounded bad. >> she said, there was an accident. you need to just, you know, come home right away. >> it was courtney who eventually broke the news to ashton and breanna. their mother, their father's wife of close to 30 years, was
dead. but neither courtney nor chris waited at the house to tell the sisters what happened or to comfort them. nor did they linger over the body at the hospital. they couldn't because father and daughter were escorted to separate squad cars and driven to the police station to talk about the accident. what was that ride like? >> quiet. you know, i just remember crying the whole time. i couldn't comfort my father. he couldn't comfort me. we got to the station and they stead my dad would just be a few more minutes. >> chris, so frenzied at the scene had calmed down. waez a cop among cops, he said, and he understood what was necessary to help them sort out what happened. >> i can't even start to imagine what you're going through, okay? and just, you know, it's a death investigation, we have to do this, okay? >> reporter: happy to help, he said. whatever would get him back home to comfort his daughters as quickly as possible.
>> this is gonna kill them. they were all so close.hem. >> reporter: chris told investigators what happened, as courtney slept he and christi were in the spa bathing. >> she got out, went in, went to the bathroom, got some more coffee, tried to wake up courtney. courtney didn't wake up. apparently she came back out. >> reporter: as christi returned to the spa, said chris, they passed each other on the patio. he went in the house then, stopped by courtney's room to make sure she was awake, then went right back outside and saw his wife floating facedown in the spa. he called courtney then, he said, and they began a frantic effort to revive her. >> i could tell we were losing her. >> reporter: from what, a fall? must have been. >> tell me in your gut what you think happened. >> i think she slipped she slipped or something. irdon't know.
that's all i could hoop. >> reporter: but apparently chris hadn't noticed the nastily three-inch laceration on christi's head. now suddenly the point of the police interview is rifled. >> the gash she has on her head -- >> she has a gash on her head? >> she's got a huge gash on her head. something that's not it consistent with just falling down. >> reporter: not consistent with just falling down? why would the police think that? >> you've been around for a while. >> i know where you're going, and no. >> reporter: in fact, why was this ex-police chief being questioned at all about the apparently disastrous accident that killed the love of his life? and the answer was right next door. when chris and christi hall took their outdoor bath that morning in june, someone was watching. her. >> i got up at 6:00. >> reporter: lindsay patterson was on leave from the navy visiting her mom who lives just over the backyard wall from the
hall house. lindsay was inside in the bathroom that faced away from the hall house and out onto the street when she heard a noise. >> it was a horrible scream. it was this -- something was wrong kind of scream. >> reporter: >> a woman, she thought? she went outside to tell her mom. >> i said, did you hear that scream? she said, yeah, but i think it's just kids playing in the pool. >> reporter: kids? at 6-something in the snorng lindsay walked over to the brick wall between their homes. she stepped on the planter and looked over the wall, she said. >> at that point i saw a man with his hand -- one hand on top of a woman's head and then one hand on her back. and she was facedown in the water. >> like something was going on? >> that's what i assumed. >> reporter: that is, she thought she was looking at a sex act in progress. >> i don't know why it didn't
seem right, but something made me want to look again. >> reporter: probably 90 seconds between her first and second looks, and this time she said she only saw the man in the spa. >> he's leaning back, just relaxed in the hot tub. but i don't see her. he's got his elbows back and he's kind of looking around like nothing. >> reporter: where did the woman go? lindsay told her mom something seemed strange. >> she tells me, lindsay, stop being nosey and don't worry about it. but it just didn't seem right. it wasn't enough time for her to have gotten out and gonnell insii -- gone inside the house. >> reporter: so, said lindsay, she went to the wall again, her third and final look. >> at that point he was getting out of the jacuzzi and he was in a very big rush. she's still nowhere to be seen. the look on his face was almost undescribable. it was almost as if he had just gone into another world. it was scary.
>> reporter: it was instinct that told her something was wrong, said lindsay, so she called 911. >> 911. state your emergency. >> reporter: so now, hours and hours later, the detectives confronted chris with lindsay's story. why, they asked, didn't her story match his? >> so am i supposed to believe the witness is lying? >> i'm not saying she's lying. she sounds like a truthful kid or whatever.ike a truthful kid but i don't know, you know? i can't explain what she's saying she saw. >> reporter: so now that question we posed as we began, did lindsay patterson really know what she saw? coming up -- >> she didn't see what was really happening. >> reporter: what had really happened? soon a turn in the occasion. >> this was not an accidental drowning. it was purely much more suspicious than that. [ male announcer ] for some reason
those five food groups sound a whole lot better when you put them in a taco shell instead of a pyramid. old el paso. when you gotta have mexican. fantastic! pro-gresso ] they fit! okay-y... okay??? i've been eating progresso and now my favorite old jeans...fit. okay is there a woman i can talk to? [ male announcer ] progresso. 40 soups 100 calories or less.
chris and christi hall's daughter's clung together june 7, 2007, the worst of all days, waiting for their father to return from the police station. and they wondered, why was it taking so long? then the phone rang and they had their answer. >> you know, broken-up words, and he's crying and we're crying. that was when he said, they think i hurt mom. i mean, he was very upset. >> but he didn't sound surprised
when he said, they hurt -- >> he was crying. >> he was upset. >> very upset. >> reporter: but by the time police investigators were questioning chris, remember, they had heard from lindsay patterson and at the station, chris' version differed from one crucial way from lindsay's story. >> me holding her down in there, there's nothing that took place in that jacuzzi that would explain that. there 'twas no sex. there was no -- i don't even think we had any contact while we were in the jacuzzi other than when i was getting her out of jacuzzi. >> reporter: but investigators were looking at christi's body and looking at signs of a struggle and more than one nasty blow to the head. so police had to believe which version chris hall's or lindsay patterson's was more likely the true story of what happened.
tom dove is an investigator for the riverside d.a. >> i think they thought this tl was enough to say this was not an accidental drowning. it was purely much more suspicious than that. >> reporter: so before the night was over, chris hall was arrested and charged with the murder of his wife. the girls could stop waiting. he wasn't coming home. >> it was obviously a tragedy losing our mother that day. but this is a tragedy on top of a tragedy now. >> because knowing our parents wouldn't just -- >> the farthest thing from the truth. >> reporter: and one that has been infected by some diend of madness, said the girls. christi was the love of their father's life, after all, the center of everything for him. how could anyone so happy in his marriage and his life be accused of hafrming her? and she was happy, too, they said. as happy as she'd ever been. they knew it, they said, based on that mother/daughter talk they had. not long before she died. >> she just kept reiterating how
happy she was. >> kind of odd. >> me and bree will always -- >> of course we didn't think much of it at that time, but that being the last time we actually saw her -- >> kind of burned into your memory now. >> yeah. >> reporter: but right or wrong, the legal trigger had been pulled. chris hall spent almost two months in jail until his daughters received the payout from christi's life insurance policy and used the money to meet his $1 million bail. and then he went back to what was to be his retirement retreat to prepare with the help of his daughters for a murder trial. >> that's very surprising to have a client in a murder case out on bail, but he was a special man and this was a special situation. >> reporter: these are attorneys who would eventually defend him, though at first they only heard about the case. steve harmon and paul grech. >> you said two things, special man, special situation. >> i think both of us can say this is a man that we like and that we know and we don't feel
he could have done anything like this. >> reporter: so chris hall and his daughters prepared for a trial which they hoped would make clear to everybody, the police, the neighbor, the world, that chris would not, could not, did not harm the love of his life. >> there was never in 30 years of marriage one moment of violence. there was no motive for this man to kill his wife. >> reporter: harmon and grech had a look at neighbor lindsay patterson's eyewitness account and suggested it was really not conclusive at all. it was tragically incomplete. >> she saw three snapshots. what is missed by everyone is the wife getting into the jacuzzi, slipping, falling into the jacuzzi, hitting her head, going unconscious, and drowning. >> reporter: see this sharp corner sticking out into the spa? hitting her head on this would certainly have opened a gash and knocked christi out, said the attorney. >> she didn't see what was really happening during the times when she was not looking.
>> reporter: that scream that made lindsay patterson look over the wall? lindsay, they pointed out, was in a bathroom that faced the street. she wasn't in the backyard when she says she heard it. could have been anybody. and courtney, who was inside her own house near the spa, didn't hear a thing. >> we don't think that she's lying. just think she misinterpreted what she saw. >> reporter: and, anyway, lindsay to a certain degree concedes she didn't know what she was seeing in her glimpses that morning. >> something was wrong. >> yet you hadn't really seen anything. >> i -- no. but i knew something was wrong. i don't know if in my brain i was putting things together, but, between the scream, the position that he was holding her, and the -- just not having enough time for her to have gone inside. >> it was like you've kind of got three different snapshots. >> right. >> something going on there and had to kind of work out what this was. >> yeah. you know, i wasn't thinking at
that time, oh, this man just murdered his wife. >> but now, based largely on that account, chris hall would go on trial for murder. and it was a trial for his daughters, too. >> he loved her. they were each other's best friends, and this is just -- this is not fair to him because he truly loved her more than anyone. >> and yet the prosecutor was going to try to prove that this family man and former cop murdered his wife. could it be done? coming up -- the case begins. evidence is revealed in court. >> when you lose that amount of hair, it's not reasonably explained by any kind of fall. >> and secrets are revealed from the past. >> this man had an uncanny ng" ity to fabricate s e wahiwac >>hen "someone was watching" continues. ue
he looks like a good father, somebody that had the support of his family. >> reporter: so he d. but he wasn't buying the loving father and family man, no. when he heard about chris hall's very obvious grief, the wailing that went on after the so-called accident, the phrase that crossed his mind was, it's an aktd. >> i think it was a wonderful performance by the defendant of acting like a bereaved huls. bu husband, but when you look at his actions, how little he did to help his wife. >> reporter: who tried harder to save christi? not chris, said the prosecutor, but his daughter. >> she called 911. she helped him get the body out of the spa. she is the only one who did chest compressions. he had no interest in truly helping his wife. >> a matter of opinion, of course, but prosecutor strunski poked around in chris hall's past as a consider policeman and what did he find?
>> this man had an uncanny ability to fabricate stories. >> seven years earlier, while hall was chief of police in cascade, idaho, he was charged and convi and convicted of misuse of money, embezzled money, spent time in jail. a white collar crime, hardly murder. but what struck the prosecutor is that he says hall tried to cover it up. >> to plan a fraud, not just lie about it but lie about it effecti effectively. >> i think it was very telling about who we were dealing with. >> suddenly the prosecutor's prospects were looking better. at the trial, he made lindsay patterson his star witness, of course. it was her story, after all, that got the whole thing started. but, almost as important, he called the riverside county medical examiner who testified that those lacerations on christi's head could not, in his opinion, have been the result of a single accidental fall and the m.e. argued that the particular type of bruising on christi's face and body was a hallmark of
homicide. >> sure. >> totality of injuries were not consistent with somebody slipping and falling and then a rescue attempt. >> and there was a clump of hair in the bottom of the spa, still intwined with a broken plastic hair clip. that, said the prosecutor, could only have come from a violent struggle. >> when you lose that amount of hair, it's not reasonableably explained by any kind of fall. >> reporter: there were some minor hiccups in the case. lindsay patterson, for example, was a little inconsistent about how long she looked over the backyard wall that first time she saw something going on. was it just a few seconds? or as long as a minute? but, either way said the prosecutor, lindsay was sure she saw physical contact. that was the important thing. >> he was given the opportunity to explain any physical contact that could in any way reasonably explain what lindsay patterson missaw. noesh in other words, were they washing each other, involved in
a sex act? was there anything that she could have misinterpreted? and at the end of the day you're not just stuck with the fact that lindsay patterson made a mistake. you have to believe lindsay patterson hallucinated about everything she saw. >> and what made lindsay's story all the more convincing, is she told it before finding out what happened to christi. she dialed 911 a full minute and a half before anyone from the hall house did. before lindsay had any idea how it would end. here's what the jury heard her say in that call. >> i saw him put her under water and hold her there. >> and she was still on the phone with 911 when chris hall came outside and found his wife's body floating in the spa called out for courtney. investigator tom dove. >> i heard it best described during the trial as a cosmic coincidence that someone could see something that they perceived to be more than just
some kind of kinky action in the jacuzzi in the morning and that actually turn out to be true, that a woman was actually drowned in that spa. that is not a coincidence. that is what she saw. >> the prosecution's theory? somehow, sitting in the spa that morning, chris was overcome by some private fury, who knows what, a hidden violence is what strunski called it. and then killed his spouse when he thought nobody was looking. >> chris hall ambushed his wife, grabbed her by the hair, slammed her head twice into the concrete edge. he's holding his wife of almost three decades under the water showing absolutely no mercy and no remorse an absolute desire to end her life at that point. >> and then -- >> he then gets out of the spa, walks into the house where his plan is to wake his 22-year-old
daughter, whoa c he can use as alibi witness. >> one little quibble -- why? in fact, as convinced he was of hall's guilt, he conceded why was a problem. didn't legally have to know, he said, but he just didn't. there it was. >> it's emotionally unsatisfying not to have that answer, not to know the entire narrative of what happened. >> but you'd want to know why this guy, married to this woman for almost 30 years, apparently happily, would suddenly turn on her and drown her in the pool. >> right. and i'm not sure we got the answers to that specific question. >> kind of an important question, isn't it? >> it's an important question and a question we ask in all spousal homicides. >> so proof enough? or reasonable doubt? almost three years after christi hall's death, a riverside jury would have to decide. coming up --
when not used in the right way, they can divide a nation. but when used wisely, they can bring us together in ways that make us stronger. words can connect us all... the more you know. chris hall's daughters sat through every miserable minute of their dad's trial for murder here at the courthouse in
riverside, california. their review of the prosecutor's portrait of their father, it was a lie, they said. >> it's hurtful for us to hear someone basically say that he knew our parents better than we do and he knows our father is a sociopath and that we're blind to it and he knows that there was hidden violence in our parents' marriage and we just didn't see it. you're basically telling us that we didn't know our whole lives were a lie. >> they're just talking. there's no proof of that. >> chris hall had never been violent, argued the defense. had no motive, no reason to suddenly turn on his wife. it had to be a freak accident. so, said the defense, lindsay patterson didn't really know what she saw. in fact, if she'd really witnessed chris hall drowning his wife, why then didn't she claim to see cristi's body in the spa when she looked again? didn't make sense. but the highlight was the hall daughters' testimony, emotional, quite powerful.
so it put prosecutor strunsky in a strange position, at odds with the victim's own family. things were so clear. if we had any inkling he had done this, believe me we would have said so. and we would have seen that. >> i think that's what they truly believe in their hearts. it weighs on my greatly, but my job is to get justice for cristi hall. >> now it was up to a jury to decide. after six days of testimony, two days of deliberation, they couldn't. it was a deadlock. the judge declared a mistrial. chris hall walked out of court with his family, free but not quite in the clear. and nothing at all like a victory for the hall daughters. what was it like to get that hung jury? what did you think then? >> this was tragic. >> that was devastating to us. >> you expected a not guilty verdict? >> oh, yeah. not a doubt. >> deputy d.a. burke strunsky
was devastated too and determined to retry the case. but first he sent his investigator on a mission to explore the life and marriage of chris hall. and what do you know? in idaho where hall had been a disgraced police chief, the investigator uncovered a startling accusation. >> chris was a great, great con man. >> former los angeles police officer jerry winkle is a county commissioner up in idaho now. but, once upon a time, he was chris hall's friend. that is, before a night of poker and booze when he said hall made a disturbing revelation, that he'd shot himself in the leg when he was a cop in order to get medical retirement benefits. >> chris had been drinking beer, and he came right out and told me that he had shot himself. >> but there was more. d.a. investigator tom dove had
discovered a secret. not in chris' past but in cristi's. >> there had been infidelity in the marriage for six years prior, while chrisall was in custody in idaho. >> cristi's affair was relatively brief, years earlier, but she'd been in phone contact with the man just days before she died. had chris found out? impossible to know. but when investigator dove talked to cristi's co-workers at the clinic where she was an x-ray technician, several of them said they noticed a sudden change in her usually vibrant personality. one co-worker offered more. >> she told us that she was contemplating a divorce. >> if true -- and it was only an if -- it might well persuade a jury. but also prosecutor strunsky needed to explain what lindsay patterson saw or didn't see. why didn't she see cristi's drowned body when she peeked over the wall a second time? >> we were not able to explain
to the jury why she didn't see cristi at that point. and i think that allowed the defense to make the argument that cristi hall was inside. >> the prosecution hired a water expert to do a re-creation of the halls' spa. andrea zafaris has been assisting law enforcement nationwide in drowning investigations for the past 20 years. she got in the spa while strunsky videotaped from the spot where lindsay was watching. >> from the center of the pool and towards where lindsay was standing, anywhere i was laying you could not be seen from lindsay's viewpoint. so once i sank below the surface and hit that bottom, you could not see me at all from lindsay's viewpoint. >> now the prosecution was ready. in may 2011, one year after the first jury deadlocked, burke strunsky went back to court armed with his new evidence for a brand new panel of hall's peers. jurors heard medical experts testify about the injuries to christi's head and once again
heard lindsay's 911 call. >> i saw him put her under water. >> cristi's co-workers testified for the prosecution. and jerry winkle traveled from idaho to tell jurors what he thought of chris hall. >> i was ashamed to admit that he was once a police officer. >> but, if the prosecution had upped its game in the year between the two trials, so had the defense. that's when well-known attorney steve harmon and paul grech entered the scene, and they came out swinging. that story about cristi's affair, for example? >> there's a shadow hanging over all of this stuff. very human sort of shadow, which is that she was having a little affair. right? had a boyfriend. >> yes. if the husband knew about it. but the wife never, ever mentions it and tells the husband. no one tells the husband. >> quite right, said the judge,
and because there was no evidence that chris knew about his wife's affair, he ruled it out of the trial. and the story about hall shooting himself for retirement benefits? >> that was just absolutely a lie. that's wrong. there was never, never any evidence or indication or not even a moment's breath that he shot himself. >> anyway, the story was prejudicial, said the judge, so he threw that out, too. as for what lindsay patterson says she saw, chris hall holding his wife's head under water, the defense had prepared its own visual demonstration, had taken pictures from her angle at the wall to show that it could look like two people were touching in the spa even if they weren't. >> this is what she described seeing in her testimony. but, on the close-up, what do you notice? >> they're not touching but they're in position where they could be. >> but that's different than actually touching. >> again, the hall daughters were there every minute, their father's enduring champions.
and this time more family members came to court. two of cristi's own siblings testified for chris. >> they said the same thing, we have not a doubt in our minds that this was not a moment of violence, this was not a murder. the victim's own sister and own brother. that's an amazing thing to see. >> perhaps it was. but listen to this. the defense had one more very significant witness. a witness who oozed credibility. the city medical examiner from neighboring san bernardino county who stuck his neck way out to disagree publicly in a court of law with the medical examiner from riverside. >> he found this to be an accidental death, not a homicide. >> this was not some ordinary hired gun. this was a public official who said straight out that cristi's head injuries could, and perhaps should, be explained by an accidental fall. he didn't rule out homicide. >> he didn't rule out homicide,
but he said the preponderance of the evidence was towards an accidental drowning. what i've always been astounded by with this case is that the hall family lived so close to the san bernardino border, if cristi had slipped and fell four or five blocks over, the pathologist in that county would never have filed criminal charges. an accident of geography. >> so now a second jury would have to sort through these two sets of allegations, these two opposing realities, and decide whether chris hall would return and embrace home and his loving daughters or a pair of handcuffs and a life in prison. coming up -- >> things can only go so wrong for so long before something has to actually go right. >> guilty or not guilty? this time the answer from the jurors would be unanimous. hr
may 2011. for the second time, 12 men and women of riverside county, california, filed out of the courtroom. a second jury to make a life decision about chris hall. did he murder his wife? which of the medical examiners should they believe? whose account of the defendant's character? and perhaps most important, what did lindsay patterson see when she peeked three times into the halls' backyard? do you ever have those little dark moments of the soul where
you think, i may have misinterpreted, misremembered? >> that is something i've thought about every day, whether i misinterpreted, whether i think i saw something that wasn't there. i didn't see everything. >> yeah. >> but i saw what i saw, and i know the conclusion of my story. i know it. i know it right here. >> of course, chris hall's daughters say they know what happened, too, in their hearts. >> i think we were the three most critical jurors in that courtroom. believe me, if we had heard anything or had any inkling that our father could have done this, as much as it would hurt him, as much as we love our father, we would want that justice for our mother. >> the jurors deliberated two days, then broke for the long weekend. it was memorial day. hall's daughters felt good. >> things can only go so wrong
for so long before something has to actually go right. >> we just did a lot of talking about the future and, you know, this being over, this being finished. honestly, i was concerned about dad and how he was finally going to be able to grieve for the loss of his wife. >> then it was tuesday 8:45 in the morning. the jury gathered and minutes later, a signal. they were ready. >> chris hall and his daughters rushed to court. and in the end it was very quick. guilty of first-degree murder. their father would not be coming home, probably ever. >> he's being cuffed and potentially put away for life, and, yeah, it hurts, and we are angry about that. >> you can still hear those
daughters accusing you of unfairly convicting their father. >> i can. absolutely. it weighs on me. but at the same time i know who i'm dealing with when it comes to chris hall. in fact, he is the one that's stolen their mother from them. >> it had been a peculiar fact of this case that the victims and defendant's families had stood solidly together against the prosecution. but what no one knew was the truth was more complicated. after the verdict at chris hall's sentencing a letter was introduced. it was from another of cristi hall's brothers, billy carlton, who until now had said not one public word about the case. we would like to ask his honor for the maximum sentence, wrote billy. the pain that my family has suffered through this tragedy is unforgivable. >> i didn't want to hurt the girls, but i had to say what was on my mind. >> there was a deep divide in cristi's family, said billy. some of her relatives believed chris was innocent, but he and
he says others, including cristi's uncle steve mundy, silently urged on the prosecutor. >> half the family was convinced he was innocent, and half the family was convinced he wasn't. and that's hard to do when you have a big family and you all have to be together every once in a while. >> and when it involves a member as beloved as cristi was. >> exactly. >> does that explain why this sort of group of people in the family decided to just let justice take its course? >> we had talked about it quite a bit. >> i think so. >> you've got to know when to show up sometimes and when to not show up, just to keep what's left of the family as together as you can have it. >> thank you so much for coming. >> when it was over, hall convicted and sentenced to 25 years to life, some of cristi's relatives met with prosecutor strunsky and thanked him. >> they wanted me to thank you. thank you for putting the man away because he's a murderer. >> and the hall daughters?
having lost their beloved mother, fought to save a father they adored. and, having lost that fight, aren't quite sure what they'll do now. >> it's a devastating reality. it really is. especially for a family that -- to say we were close is an understatement, you know. to go from that to being not able to be there with each other is -- it's the greatest heartbreak that anyone could ever experience i think. that's all for now. i'm lester holt. for all of us at nbc news, thanks for joi you might be surprised what rick perry said about the war in iraq and troops. >> the police are searching for two gunmen. a